Seventh Heaven

Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse captures the comic hell of junior high

Young teens don't yet understand these rituals; they're prancing brutes who treat one another with a candor that's often cruel. But then Dawn is one of them; she knows no other world, no other way, and perhaps her ignorance keeps her from becoming too discouraged. She does, after all, find a place to sit and eat her creamed food-service corn.

Welcome to the Dollhouse won the Grand Jury Prize for best feature at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and no wonder. It handles its universal subject matter -- the feeling of being outside, and unwanted; the terrible discomfort of being half-formed -- with ruthless delicacy. And it buffers harsh memories with a rueful laughter that wasn't there at the time but that makes it possible, as an adult, to watch, and revisit.

Welcome to the Dollhouse opens Friday, May 31, at the Embarcadero Center in

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